A minister has insisted millions of pounds spent on a new media room have not gone to waste after the government scrapped plans to hold daily televised briefings.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden defended the government for spending £2.6million of taxpayer funds adapting a room in No 9 for TV press conferences complete with microphones, Union Jack flags, podiums, cameras and computers – only to axe briefings before they even started.
Dowden told LBC that funds had not been wasted “in the sense that I’ve done a number of these press conferences from that room”.
He added: “It’s actually the state dining room in No 10.
“It’s not used for much dining but it’s used for many many meetings. It’s not really fit for the modern media communications.
“So the investment that has been made to create that facility will be used by future governments.
“It’s pretty similar to what we see in many other countries around the world.”
Dowden insists the room will be used for future press conferences.
Ex-journalist Allegra Stratton had been poached to head up the White House-style briefings but following the change will now be the spokeswoman for the United Nations Cop26 climate change summit.
Labour has slammed the move, accusing No 10 of “running scared of scrutiny”.
Shadow justice secretary David Lammy said: “This is truly the most reckless, wasteful and self-interested government I’ve ever witnessed.”
Deputy leader Angela Rayner said Boris Johnson was “clearly running scared of scrutiny and questions about Tory sleaze and dodgy lobbying”.
She said the money should have gone towards giving NHS heroes a pay rise, instead of a “pointless vanity project”.
Pressure group the Taxpayers’ Alliance tweeted: “With £2.6 million spent on this briefing room, Downing Street will have a hard time justifying this to taxpayers.
“This project was supposed to deliver transparency, so Number 10 must be upfront about whether money has been frittered away on a facility for vanity videos.”